FORT FRANCES – BUSINESS – Resolute Forest Products Inc. have announced the permanent closure of the company’s previously idled pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances, Ontario. The company announced an extended period of market-related outage on its remaining paper machine in January.
The kraft pulp mill and another paper machine have been idled since November of 2012.
“We tried hard to find a way to reposition these assets, particularly the pulp mill. But unfortunately, due to end product markets, the mill’s operational configuration and its cost position, we’ve concluded that there was no economically viable option for the pulp and paper operations at Fort Frances,” said Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer.
The company will provide appropriate notice to staff who were retained to manage the idled facility. Resolute will also work with affected employees, all levels of government and other local authorities on programs to lessen the impact of this permanent closure. Affected employees will be considered for job vacancies and opportunities at other company facilities.
Resolute is currently exploring opportunities to continue to operate the biomass boiler and electricity-producing steam turbine. The company is also progressing on three important investment initiatives underway in Northwestern Ontario: the construction of a new sawmill in Atikokan; the upgrade and restart of the idled Ignace sawmill; and the construction of a wood pellet plant at the Thunder Baysawmill.
Stephen Boon, Unifor National Representative, said, “The decision by Resolute today to permanently close the Fort Frances mill is a final major blow to the community of Fort Frances and to our members and their families there. In 2010, Unifor members in Fort Frances agreed to a number of significant sacrifices related to wages, benefits and future pension service in order to help Resolute successfully restructure itself.”
Boon added, “We all hoped these difficult employee sacrifices, the abundance of quality wood fibre, and this mill’s ability to produce most of its own power would encourage Resolute to finally step up and make the necessary capital investment to re-position the Fort Frances site specifically related to the Kraft mill.”
“Most of the mill workforce was terminated on March 12th and we have been preparing for this potential outcome by ensuring all affected members are provided with their contractual severance rights, pension grow-in enhancements and local labour market retraining and job search services through Northern Community Development Services. With this decision to now permanently close the Fort Frances mill, we will now work to ensure Resolute follows through on its commitment to provide new job opportunities for affected Frances employees at the soon be to opened sawmills in Atikokan and Ignace,” concluded Boon.